Mastering the ASWB Exam: The Art of Note-Taking

Mastering the ASWB Exam: The Art of Note-Taking

So you’re starting to study for the ASWB Exam? Don’t you sometimes feel like you’re drowning in all that information? There’s so much to know, remember, and apply!

But what if we told you there’s a secret weapon that could change the game for you? This isn’t your ordinary “how to take notes” guide. It’s tailored, proven, and geared just for the ASWB. So, ready to dive in? Let’s go!

1) Why Note-Taking is Your Secret Weapon for the ASWB Exam

Before we get into the “how”, let’s address the “why”. Why even bother taking notes? Can’t you just rely on your memory and power of understanding?

Enhancing Memory

Imagine you’re watching a movie. You’re totally into it. The scenes, the drama, the plot twists – everything’s engaging. Then someone asks you about a specific scene, and suddenly, it’s all a blur.

That’s kind of how our brains work with studying. You might feel like you understand it all, but without revisiting, the details can get fuzzy.

Visual Aids

You’re not just jotting down words. You’re creating a visual aid that’s tailored to you. Ever noticed how you can remember the location of a note or doodle on a page? That’s your brain tapping into its visual strength!

2) The Art of Note-Taking for the ASWB Exam: Techniques to Try

The Cornell System

This tried-and-true method is about as classic as it gets. The beauty of this system? It’s clear-cut and compartmentalized. Here’s the drill:

  • Main Notes Section: This is where the magic happens. Detail your main points, but keep it crisp.
  • Cues Section: To the left of your main notes, jot down keywords or main ideas. This will be your quick reference guide.
  • Summary: At the end of your notes, create a summary. Think of it as your “too long; didn’t read” version.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is visual note-taking. Think of it as doodling, but with purpose and structure. At its core, mind mapping is about connections.

Rather than linear notes that follow a strict sequence, mind maps mirror the natural flow and structure of the brain, which is intrinsically web-like and interconnected.

  • Boosted Memory: Visual cues, such as colors and images, can significantly enhance memory retention. Remember that funny doodle next to a concept? That might just be your ticket to recalling it during the exam!
  • Holistic Understanding: Instead of isolated facts, mind maps help you see the bigger picture and the interrelations between different topics.
  • Creativity Unleashed: Let’s face it, studying can be monotonous. Mind mapping adds a splash of color and creativity, making the process more engaging and enjoyable.

Start with the Central Idea
In the center of your paper or digital tool, write down the main topic or idea. This serves as the anchor for your map. For the ASWB, this could be a main subject or concept.

Branch Out
From the central idea, draw branches (lines) that represent sub-topics or key themes. For instance, if your central idea is “Human Development,” sub-topics might include “Childhood,” “Adolescence,” and “Adulthood.”

Dive Deeper with Sub-branches
From each sub-topic, you can draw smaller lines or sub-branches to represent detailed points or concepts related to that sub-topic. Under “Adolescence,” you might have points like “Cognitive Changes” or “Social Dynamics.”

Get Colorful
Use different colors for different branches or themes. This not only makes your map visually appealing but also aids memory recall. Maybe “Childhood” is green, symbolizing growth, while “Adulthood” is blue, representing depth and maturity.

Icons, Images, and Doodles
Add little icons or doodles to represent concepts. A light bulb for a new idea, or a question mark for something you need to revisit.

The Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was not just renowned for his contributions to science but also for his remarkable ability to explain complex concepts in easy-to-understand terms.

The Feynman Technique embodies this skill, providing a unique approach to learning that’s as applicable to quantum physics as it is to your ASWB exam prep. So, how can you employ this legendary method to your advantage? Let’s deep dive into it!

Why it Works

  • Active Recall: Instead of passively reading or listening, you’re actively engaging with the content, leading to better memory retention.
  • Simplified Understanding: If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. The technique pushes you to strip down complexities.

Pick a Topic
Choose a concept or topic from your ASWB studying plan that you wish to understand better. It could be something you’re already familiar with or something entirely new.

Teach It to a “Student”
Now, pretend you’re teaching this concept to someone who has no prior knowledge about it. This “student” can be an imaginary person, a friend, or even an inanimate object like a rubber duck (seriously, it works!). Explain the topic without referring to your notes.

Identify Gaps and Review
While teaching, you’ll inevitably come across areas where you’re unsure or unclear. That’s golden! It highlights where you need to focus. Go back to your sources or materials and revisit those points.

Simplify and Use Analogies
Challenge yourself to explain the concept in simpler terms. If you’re stumbling over jargon or technical terms, it’s a sign. Try to find everyday analogies or metaphors that encapsulate the idea. This not only deepens your understanding but makes the information more relatable and memorable.

As with any technique, repetition enhances its efficacy. The more you practice teaching and refining, the better you’ll grasp the intricacies of the topic.

3) Making it ASWB Specific

The ASWB Exam is not just any exam; it’s a comprehensive assessment that measures your competence in Social Work. Thus, any technique or strategy, including the Feynman Technique, needs to be adapted specifically for its unique challenges and format.

Familiarize Yourself with the ASWB Exam Structure

Before applying the Feynman Technique or any other study strategy, it’s crucial to be intimately familiar with the exam’s structure. The ASWB Exam consists of different sections, each focusing on various aspects of Social Work.

  • Know the Sections: Understand the weightage and focus of each section. Is it on clinical practice, ethical considerations, or community interventions? Learn more about the exam here: ASWB Exam FAQ: Everything You Need To Know
  • Target Key Concepts: Once you’re aware of the exam’s structure, you can target and prioritize the primary concepts in each section. These become your teaching topics for the Feynman Technique.

Prioritize the Content

The ASWB isn’t your run-of-the-mill test. There are specific sections and topics. Familiarize yourself with the layout and prioritize your note-taking accordingly.

Real-life Scenarios

What’s unique about the ASWB is the application. It’s not just about theoretical knowledge. It’s about real-world application. When taking notes, create hypothetical scenarios. It’s a great way to prep!

4) FAQs – Note-Taking Tips

Q: How often should I revise my notes?

A: At least once a week. The frequency of revising notes can vary based on individual learning styles, the volume of material to be covered, and the time available before the exam. However, there’s a general consensus backed by cognitive science on the effectiveness of spaced repetition in enhancing memory retention.

Here’s a suggested revision schedule based on spaced repetition:

  1. First Revision: 24 hours after your initial study session. This first revision is crucial as memory retention starts declining rapidly after learning. Revisiting the notes within a day helps reinforce the information and move it from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
  2. Second Revision: One week after your initial study session. At this point, the information is somewhat fresh, but you might have forgotten some details. This revision ensures you’re still familiar with the content and reinforces your understanding.
  3. Third Revision: One month after your initial study. This spaced repetition helps consolidate the information further into long-term memory. By now, you should be more fluent in recalling the information.

Q: Should I type or write down my notes?

A: Personal preference! Some swear by writing as it’s believed to improve memory, while others prefer the efficiency of typing. Do what feels right for you.

Q: Can I use highlighters?

A: Absolutely! Color coding can be a fantastic visual aid. Just be sure not to go overboard; you don’t want a rainbow without a purpose!

5) Conclusion

Alright, there you have it! The power of note-taking unleashed, tailored just for the ASWB. Studying for the ASWB exam is not about changing your style but refining it. It’s about making sure every ounce of effort you put in is channeled in the right direction.

So, grab that pen, fire up that laptop, and let’s make those notes count. You’ve got this! And remember, it’s not just about passing an exam. It’s about mastering the material and becoming the best version of your professional self. Dive deep, and success will follow!

Learn more about how you can build your study strategy and create a personalized study plan with Agents of Change. We’ve helped thousands of Social Workers pass their ASWB exams and want to help you be next!


► Learn more about the Agents of Change course here:

About the Instructor, Meagan Mitchell: Meagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing individualized and group test prep for the ASWB for over five years. From all of this experience helping others pass their exams, she created the Agents of Change course to help you prepare for and pass the ASWB exam!

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Disclaimer: This content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment


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